Brad Guzan or Nick Rimando – Who will replace Tim Howard for USA?

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After Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando play 45 minutes each for the USA against the Czech Republic on Wednesday, it seems as though the battle to replace Tim Howard over the next 12 months isn’t as straightforward as we thought.

Guzan was, and probably still is, the favorite to replace Howard long-term, but Rimando’s second half display against the Czechs was nothing short of sensational and reminded us all of his sublime, if unconventional, talent.

[RELATED: Player ratings, USA vs. Czech Rep.]

Howard’s year-long sabbatical has thrust this discussion into the limelight, as fans of U.S. soccer have long been clambering for Guzan to get more of a chance in goal. How many times have you heard “too bad for Guzan, he has Timmy Howard ahead of him” when dsicussing the USA’s squad? The answer: a lot.

However, Rimando was never in that discussion. Until now.

The Real Salt Lake ‘keeper has suffered from being labelled ‘too short’ and ‘too small to be a goalkeeper’ by many out there. But the man who won the Gold Cup with the USA in 2013, and has been pretty much ever present in Klinsmann’s squad since he took over as boss, is now proving just how good he is. A stunning stat was also pulled out by Paul Carr from ESPN, as Rimando has never lost when playing for the U.S. The Californian ‘keeper has a 13-0-2 record in his 15 caps for the Stars and Stripes. So, he’s a bit of a lucky charm, too, if you believe in superstition.

[RELATED: USA beat Czech Republic 1-0 in Prague]

One of the biggest travesties in Major League Soccer is that Rimando has never won the Goalkeeper of the Year award during his 14-year stint in the league. For Miami Fusion, D.C. United and RSL, he has always been reliable and pulls out highlight-reel saves on a weekly basis. Just ask the locals who watch him at the Rio Tinto. They will not have been surprised by the three stunning stops Rimando made late in the game as the Czechs piled on the  pressure. Rimando made two sprawling saves (watch the highlight video above to see how good they were) with his feet and a few more crucial blocks to keep the home side at bay and persevere the USA’s 1-0 lead. Rimando seems to be grasping this fight for the starters spot and is eager to push Guzan all the way for it.

source: AP
Rimando or Guzan, who you got?

[RELATED: Howard’s sabbatical provides chance for Guzan, Johnson, Hamid]

As for Guzan, his rise in the Premier League with Aston Villa has been a sensational story as the former Chivas USA stopper was released by the Villans in 2012. Without a club, Guzan was quickly signed back up by new Villa manager Paul Lambert and has been the number one ever since. He was Villa’s Player of the Year last season and has already recorded two clean sheets from three matches this campaign.

Guzan didn’t have much to do in his first half display against the Czech Republic on Wednesday, but we know his capabilities. He is still the favorite to replace Howard and many believe that at the age of 29, Guzan should be the preferred choice in goal for the U.S. when the 2018 World Cup rolls around. Rimando will be 39 during the World Cup in four years time, so perhaps that gives Guzan the edge too.

Between now and next year when Howard returns, Guzan has a real battle on his hands just to win the starting spot ahead of Rimando. We all know the U.S. is traditionally a powerhouse in producing goalkeepers, but the strength of it’s second and three string ‘keepers is something else when you consider MLSers Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson are also lined up behind Guzan and Rimando.

Whoever gets the nod to replace Howard permanently over the next 12 months, the U.S. won’t have to worry about the goalkeeping position for quite some time.

That’s a huge plus, even if it provides Klisnmann with one heck of a headache.

Lamela needs hip surgery, out for rest of Spurs season

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Tottenham Hotspur won’t be getting an Erik Lamela boost any time soon.

The 25-year-old winger will undergo surgery on his ailing hip this Saturday, costing him availability for Spurs’ stretch run and Argentina duty.

[ MORE: RSL hires Petke ]

Lamela has been missing since Oct. 29, and left Spurs lineup with the team unbeaten in the Premier League (5W-4D).

He registered a goal and an assist in PL play, adding a goal and four helpers in the side’s first two rounds of the EFL Cup and two assists in three Champions League matches.

Real Salt Lake introduces Mike Petke as new head coach

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Mike Petke is getting a deserved next kick as an MLS coach.

The New York Red Bulls icon, 41, is taking over at Real Salt Lake, where he had been leading USL side Real Monarchs since December.

“They’re an animal waiting to be released from a cage,” Petke called RSL’s roster.

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

Petke won better than 41 percent of his matches as RBNY boss, leading the club to the 2013 Supporters’ Shield. This came after 351 matches between Colorado, the Red Bulls/MetroStars, and DC United.

He leaves Real Monarchs with a perfect 1-0 record. Unbeaten!

“The vision that he laid out, along with Craig and Rob, was music to my ears,” Petek said. “They really showed me what was ahead for the RSL organization, and it was an easy thing to be a part of.”

Petke thanked the Monarchs for restoring some of his love for managing, something he said was “kicked out of me”. The Red Bulls shockingly parted ways with Petke in January 2015, moving onto Jesse Marsch.

This is a low risk hire for Real, who gains a respected coach and soccer mind. The optics aren’t great coming so early into the season and so soon after his hiring at Monarchs raised eyebrows.

The hiring comes four days after RSL drew the Red Bulls 0-0 at Red Bull Arena, which is the only disappointment of this whole ordeal: Not getting to see the response at his old home.

Referee leaders want on-field official to see video replays

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LONDON (AP) Antoine Griezmann headed the ball into the net and was in full celebration mode with his France teammates when referee Felix Swayer pinned a finger into his left ear to block out the stadium noise.

[ VIDEO: VAR system used correctly

An assistant in front of a bank of monitors was assessing replays and had some bad news for Griezmann. Swayer was told through his earpiece that a player was offside in the buildup.

The goal was then ruled out, without Swayer seeing a replay. But that won’t necessarily be the case by the time video replays are fully approved to be rolled out across soccer.

For now, the experimental phase is still in full flow but if refereeing leaders get their way officials should always have access to the footage themselves around the field.

“The subjective decisions should be made by the on-field referee because they have got the feel for the game,” Mike Riley, general manager of English refereeing organization, told The Associated Press. “They can put it in the context of everything else. So as part of the process we have got to work out how we can do that as effectively as possible … without interrupting the flow of the game.”

The International Football Association Board, the game’s lawmaking body, is in its second year of trials with various versions of video assistant referees (VAR). Some games, like the France-Spain friendly, do not allow the referee to evaluate incidents and instead by rely on the VAR.

But VAR could end up only ruling on what Riley describes as “decisions of fact,” such as whether a ball was inside or outside the penalty area.

Ultimately, if you are appointing one of the top referees to preside over a major game, that person is seen as ideal for making the big calls, according to IFAB.

“Fundamentally we are told very much by players and coaches they want the referee to be making the most important decisions,” IFAB technical director David Elleray said, referencing England’s top referee. “They don’t know who is in a van out in the car park or 300 miles away in a match center.”

Soccer’s lawmakers only envisage video replays being used to correct game-changing decisions involving four situations: penalties being awarded, red cards, cases of mistaken identity and goals being scored.

That situation arose twice in the Stade de France on Tuesday as France lost 2-0 to Spain. After Griezmann’s goal was disallowed, video replays worked against France again but in Spain’s favor when an incorrect offside call against Gerard Deulofeu was overturned and his goal stood.

Swayer again relied on the information from a colleague benefiting from replays.

“Nicola Rizzoli was appointed to referee the last World Cup final because he is the best referee,” Elleray said. “But if actually the two most important decisions in the match are made by somebody watching a TV screen … the most important person is the man you put behind the TV screen not the man on the field.”

The challenges are how referees are able to view replays without lengthening the delay. For now the technology isn’t satisfactory for officials to use wearable devices and receive footage in real time. That means going to the side of the field to watch incidents with the eyes of thousands of fans in the stands on them. The screens are likely to be on the opposite side to the technical area to avoid coaches being able to surround and harangue the referee.

“Some of our stadiums don’t lend themselves to monitors by the side of the pitch because they are really tight,” said Riley, a former Premier League referee who is now in charge of appointments for games in the world’s richest soccer competition. “Is it right for referees to have to run 30 yards to go and look? Can you get the footage to the referee on the field somehow? All these things have to be explored through the experiment and come out with a solution that works for football.”

Live experiments are taking place in about 20 competitions this year, including the Confederations Cup in Russia in June and July that will serves as a World Cup test event.

Once IFAB adds video replays to the laws of the game, any competition meeting the requirements will be able to use them.

For Riley, permitting replays is “the most significant change in refereeing in the game for generations,” far more significant than the 2012 decision to allow technology that simply determines whether the ball crossed the goal line.

“If you are making such a significant change,” Riley said, “you need to really explore and understand all the potential implications.”

Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

Amid fanfare, Bastian Schweinsteiger arrives in Chicago

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Arriving at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, it is clear Bastian Schweinsteiger is kind of a big deal…

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Posing for photos with fans as he stepped off the flight with his wife, former Serbian tennis star Ana Ivanovic, the former Bayern Munich midfielder was mobbed by Chicago Fire fans who are delighted he has arrived in Major League Soccer as the newest Designated Player.

The German legend has completed his move from Manchester United to the Fire and will be officially unveiled to the media on Wednesday after signing a one-year deal.

[ MORE: Latest MLS news ]

Schweinsteiger, 32, has already had a training session in the books and the World Cup winner is expected to make his debut in Chicago’s home clash with the Montreal Impact on Saturday at Toyota Park.

Below is a video of Schweinsteiger’s arrival in Chicago, his first training session and a collection of photos he took with ecstatic Fire fans.